Monday, December 14, 2009

Book Review - Fairest

This story has many similarities to the tale of Snow White.

Gail Carson Levine wrote this heartwarming tale of a maiden named Aza. Aza was abandoned as a baby and left at The Featherbed Inn where she is taken in by the family who owns and runs the Inn. They adopt her, love her, and raise her as their own daughter.

Aza has the loveliest and most enchanting singing voice, which in the musical kingdom of Ayortha is very admired. The kingdom holds regular "Sings" where villagers compose songs, gather, and spend the time singing their songs in turn. They also spend a great deal of their time singing as they go about their day to day activities.

Aza has one obstacle which is constantly on her mind. She is not beautiful, she is not even pretty. In fact, many people stare at her because of her odd looking appearance. Her greatest dream is to be beautiful.

Aza visits the castle where she meets the bewitchingly beautiful queen, and is made her lady in waiting, she encounters a prince who likes her for who she is, and finds a magic mirror where she beholds an image of her beautified self.

Does Aza get her wish? Is it really what she wants?

Aza is imprisoned, escapes, goes on a journey, and discovers there is a lot more to true happiness then outward appearances.

This is an enjoyable tale of love, jealousy, confidence, mercy, and doing the right thing. To me it was well worth the read.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Artist Rob Gonsalves

I made a post a few days ago about a picture book I enjoyed, Imagine a Day. Well it turns out there are three books by this author and illustrator. Imagine a Night and Imagine a Place.

Rob Gonsalves was born in Toronto, Canada. Some refer to his paintings as"Magic Realism" and some call it "Surrealistic".

Whatever you want to call it Gonsalves obviously shows a sense of magic in each of his works. Right now he has 64 paintings and is working on more. This is one exhibit I would love to attend!

These illustrations fascinate me so I thought I would post a few of my favorites. My local library only has the one book but I look forward to reading the rest.

I hope you enjoy them as much as I did!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Chopping Down the Christmas Tree

Today we donned our winter coats, and tromped through woods filled with evergreens in search of the perfect Christmas tree. This is our second year for this adventurous new tradition.

Deeper and deeper we trudged. To short, to bare, to yellow, to Charlie Brown. Finally we found it. My husband took the cover off the hand saw and freed the spruce from its captivity.

One of my favorite parts of Christmas are traditions. Cutting down your own tree, drinking egg nog and listening to Christmas music while you fill the tree with color. Singing Christmas carols while you drive around the neighborhood filling your eyes with red, green, yellow, blue, and orange lights. Sipping a cup of homemade hot cocoa while you sit by a warm fire and gaze at the tree and decorations. And who can forget watching the classics? White Christmas, It's a Wonderful Life, or Charlie Brown's Christmas. Don't you just love tradition?

Anyone have a favorite Christmas tradition?

Friday, December 4, 2009

Book Review - Imagine a Day

I've never had a favorite picture book. There were many I enjoyed, but none have stood out in my mind as much as this 2005 Governor General's Literary Award for Illustrations book. Written by Sarah L. Thomson and illustrated by Rob Gonsalves.

This book comes alive as you turn the pages. The fifteen illustrations by Gonsalves capture you and the words compel and lift you off to a wondrous place where only the imagination can live.

My whole family read the book and we each picked our favorite page. None was the same. Mine was the last.

imagine a day...

... when a book swings open
on silent hinges,
and a place you've never seen before
welcomes you home.

Imagine . . . today

I wish I could have put some of these illustrations up for you to see for yourself. You will just have to use your own imagination. But this book is worth checking out at your local library, or if you have children ages 6-10 buying for yourself. I know I will.

I also discovered there is another one like it by the same team. Imagine a Night. Can't wait to check that one out as well.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Fifteen Years of Bliss

Today, my husband Larry and I celebrate fifteen years of marriage.

Fifteen years ago on this day, my beloved and I stood on a stage of a chapel in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida. We committed to love each other and be there for each other for the rest of our lives.

We both took those vows very seriously. Because of that, our marriage remains strong in spite of storms and trials.

When I stood before my husband, our pastor, and a room filled with witnesses, I knew our marriage would last. No matter what came our way, we would love each other through it, and work it out together. Because that's what marriage means. Yes it can be tough, but commitment doesn't mean staying together because you still FEEL the oowwee, goowwee, feelings of love. I am committed to this man, until our lives on earth are done.

So this is to the wonderful man I married. Who can still make me laugh, who can still surprise me with flowers for no reason, and who I cherish watching be a father to our children. And I know he loves me too.

I love you Larry! Happy Anniversary!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Fan Fiction

I have recently (last night) been familiarized with the term fan fiction. (Thank you Beth) I was very puzzled as to why author's choose to do this.

To me, Jane Austen was an incredible authoress ahead of her time. Living in the seventeen and eighteen hundreds, going where no women had gone before.

Pride and Prejudice is probable my favorite novel. However, if a sequel was written, I don't think I would read it. (Maybe someone already has)

The same with this newly published sequel of Sense and Sensibility. Why?

I mean no offense to those who have done this, I just don't understand it. If you are a writer, God gave you the wonderful gift of creativity and you are an original work made by his hand. It is hard for me to understand copies of someone else's genius. You have your own genius in there somewhere.

I'm sure there are many who disagree with me and that's fine. We all have our own unique views, that's what keeps life interesting.

Here is a blurb from the continuation of Sense and Sensibility:

A lost love returns, rekindling forgotten passions… In Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility, when Marianne Dashwood marries Colonel Brandon, she puts her heartbreak over dashing scoundrel John Willoughby in the past. Three years later, Willoughby's return throws Marianne into a tizzy of painful memories and exquisite feelings of uncertainty. Willoughby is as charming, as roguish, and as much in love with her as ever. And the timing couldn't be worse—with Colonel Brandon away and Willoughby determined to win her back, will Marianne find the strength to save her marriage, or will the temptation of a previous love be too powerful to resist?

Austen would never have written a novel like this.

I give it one praise, I love the cover.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The Art of Storytelling

Everyone loves a good story. A dashing young prince carries a beautiful young maiden off to a far away land. A sea fairing captain's ship is taken over and pillaged by a band of pirates. A brave knight slays a fierce dragon and saves a terrorized village from coming undone.

A good story has the power to transform us to another time and place. To an imaginary world, where good overcomes evil, and evil pays a high price for his misdeeds.

A suppose this is what fuels my passion for writing. Attempting to tell a story in a new and captivating way that has yet to be told. To enrapture a reader as well as plant a seed of striving at all cost to do what is just and honorable no matter what insurmountable barrier blocks his path.

As I spend hours at my computer punching keys and creating a new world and new character's that have never before been introduced into the hearts of man. I am continually enraptured by the experience. I do not feel as though I am just writing yet another novel that might be read then set aside and forgotten. It is my passion to instill into the hearts of young readers a desire for the written word. For the reader to see their hero do the right thing, and find the courage within. To conquer their fear and defeat the darkness that looms before them. Threatening that all hope is lost and evil shall prevail against good.

I know it's been done before, again and again, and it will continue to be done by writers far more gifted then I. But we all have a voice.

There is someone out there each of us can reach where others may fail. Whether it's writing a novel, singing a song that will move an audience to tears, or simple living a life of integrity before a lost and fallen world.

No man knows exactly what the future holds, but each man holds his future in his hands. What we do with it is up to us. A gift of free choice and free will that no man can take away is ours. What path we take is entirely up to us.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Book Review - Keys To the Kingdom: Mister Monday

I recently finished a children's fantasy novel by Garth Nix.

Arthur Penhaligon is a twelve year old boy and an asthmatic. He is the youngest child in a large family.

Upon his first day at a new school he finds that Monday's are when the kids participate in a run around the school grounds.

Arthur recently got out of the hospital from an asthma attack, but doesn't want to seem foolish in front of new classmates so he runs anyway.

Shortly into the run he has an attack of which he falls to the ground unable to breathe. Here is when Arthur's life takes a dramatic, fantasy spun turn.

He is given a key in the form of a second hand to a clock. This key has power and eventually Arthur is swept away into another world.

Knowing there is a horrible plague back home on planet earth or what the author calls, "the second realm" he is driven to do all that "the Will" commands of him.

The Preface is: There was a will, it was broken into seven pieces and left unfulfilled. There were seven trustees who wanted to prevent the will from being fulfilled. The Trustees are Mister Monday, Grim Tuesday, Drowned Wednesday, Sir Thursday, Lady Friday, Superior Saturday and Lord Sunday.

This first book in the series, Keys to the Kingdom is only about Mister Monday.

Mister Monday is the trustee of the Lower House where Arthur finds himself. Arthur must defeat this trustee with the help of a twelve year old girl named Suzy Blue and the first piece of the Will which can take on different forms.

There were two things I personally disapproved of. But they were very short lived.

It is a bit complex, I doubt most kids would be able to keep up with everything when I had a difficult time. But it was entertaining, well written, and not dark like most fantasy novels of today.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Striving for Perfection

I have been struggleing for weeks with an assignment for my children's writing course. Past assignments have been a breeze compared to this one. It is a non-fiction article. I have never written a non-fiction article.

I choose a subject that I am passionate about, and studied the facts faithfully. Then, I sat down to write. Nothing. Nothing. Nothing.

Finally a friend advised me to just write. Get it down, good, bad, or ugly. Then go back and fix it. So this I did.

First introduction... YUCK!

Second introduction... BLAHHH!

Third introduction... IIIICCCCKKK!

And so on, and so, and so on.

It was just facts! I knew the facts, they were accurate and clear, but it was boring!

For weeks I agonized, wondering if I should just choose a different subject. Then one night, I decided to ask my non-reading, non-writing, husband his opionion on one of my introductions. I am so glad I did!

I have learned, you should never underestimate the power of an outside opinion. Even one who isn't part of your writers group. If I had submitted my intros to my group they most likely would have helped me long ago.

Thank you Larry for your words of wisdom. "Did Thomas Jefferson have a dog?"

I didn't use it, but it caused me to think and to write from a different viewpoint.

I'm ninety percent done with my first draft. I hope someone out there can learn from my struggle.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Pajama Raid

Childhood is fleeting, and like I have declared in past blogs, I want to give to my children as memorable an experience as possible.

My sister gave me an idea for something to do with my kids, and I jumped right on it, adding my own twists and turns.

It was Friday night, my husband and I had placed the kids in their beds ten minutes prior. It was quiet. We grabbed our flashlights and proceeded to turn out each light in our home. We tip-toed up the stairs and opened our kids doors whispering, "Pajama Raid".

We communicated to them the need to whisper because there could be spies around every corner. Quietly we put on jackets, descended the stairs, and exited to the garage. Their voices filled with wonder as we went. We also informed them they would be briefed on the mission as soon as we got inside the vehicle.

The kids couldn't believe or guess what was going on. Once the last child was fastened in their seat I turned and said to them, "this is Operation Ice Cream!"

The kids squealed with glee.

"But we must remain as quiet as possible, and keep a look-out for spies or anyone else out there who may try and jeopardize the mission. Lay low!" I commanded.

All the way to Dairy Queen we looked for "tails on our back" as we traveled the dark roads.

I gave them all code names for the mission. They were in total elation mode the whole trip.

The ice cream was inhaled quickly as we returned safely to base. We tip-toed back up the stairs where they were briefed in the hall.

"This was a top secret mission," I whispered flash light in hand. "In order to be granted another adventure you cannot ask when the next one will be or that will delay it."

They quietly returned to their rooms, still whispering their unbelief at what just occurred.

My husband and I plan to do it again, when? You never can tell. Maybe every couple months or so.

Anyone else have any memories or idea's like this? I'd love to hear about them. I look forward to sitting around having coffee with my kids when they are twenty or thirty something, and listening to them relay the memories of their childhood with animation in their eyes.

Perhaps with the proceeding arrival of winter, our next mission will be, "Operation Hot Chocolate"!

Monday, September 21, 2009

I'm Surrounded

I stepped outside and felt the warmth of the sun as it swept across my face. I wandered to the end of the driveway, opened the wooden box and pulled out a pile of mail. Thumbing through it I looked for desirable material. Once again, I was greeted with Cabela's, Riflemen, and Bass Pro Shop magazines that never stop coming. Oh look, here's something addressed to me from the NRA. I don't remember joining the NRA.

As I re-enter my abode I place the stack atop the growing pile on the kitchen counter. I have been forbidden to throw them away.

From the kitchen I step into the family room where I stumble upon colorful piles of lego's, which had been abandoned, but am assured by the screams that echoed from above the culprit is not far away.

Walking up the stairs my eyes fall upon, a bionicle arm, a hot wheel car, and something that appears to have once been a transformer.

These subtle reminders of the male population that inhabits these walls are as unfailing as the assurance that the sun will set in the west. And yet, I remain a sane, content, and a mostly cheerful, wife and mother.

I have four males that have taken over my home. A home which I strive to keep as feminine as I can under the circumstances. Here are some ways I have subconsciously attempted to keep the masculine influence in my life at arms length.

1. I collect fine china

2. I love fresh flowers in the house

3. I read Jane Austen novels

4. I own a collie

5. I love tea parties

6. I have Sandra Kuck pictures hanging in my bedroom

7. I wear mostly feminine looking clothing

8. I light candles

9. I have had magazine subscriptions to, Martha Stewart Living, Victoria, and Better Homes and Gardens.

10. I married a man who hunts, races RC cars, tinkers in the basement with RC cars for hours, and participates in competitive shooting

Oh wait, that last one doesn't count does it?

It is remarkable how God made male and female so different, and yet, they can be so compatible. We compliment each other and show forth the diversity of our Maker.

So despite the fact that I don't always UNDERSTAND the male population of my home I do TRY to appreciate our differences.

...and PLEASE, don't forget to put the seat down!

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Creating Memories

Today was a first for us. We drove to a nearby farm and picked our own vegetables. True, I could have purchased that same produce from my local grocery store but... a memory was made.

Childhood is such a rich time. Filled with lessons to learn, games to play, and memories to make. Most of us have a favorite memory from our childhood. A family vacation, a lemonade stand, drinking cocoa beside a fireplace while a blizzard raged outdoors. Doesn't just reading about those things make you smile? Well, maybe I'm just sentimental.

A friend recently told me about taking her young children to Disney World for the first time. As adults, maybe that doesn't sound as enjoyable as it once would have been. But here is the way she looked at it. She kept her focus on her children. Studying their faces as they light up, and the eagerness in their eyes. It moved her to tears.

"It was magical!" she said.

Today, as we waded through fields rich with growth, my sandals allowing a full helping of dirt between my toes, I just took it all in. The joy on the faces of my children as they beheld the miracle of produce that had sprung up from the ground. We were making a memory. Which I believe my children will not soon forget.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

The Road Less Traveled By

As I walk on this journey called "life" I am met with many things. Sharp turns, obstacles that block my way, some great and some small. But inevitably the path divides in front of me.

Which path do I take?

When I take the path that looks easy, I may enjoy it for a while. Little sweat is involved, no hills to climb or hurdles to jump over, all seems fine. But when the journey is over, fewer calories were burnt, no muscle developed, and no lessons learned on the way.

When I take the narrower harder path, I sweat, I climb, and I hurdle. And when it's over, I am stronger, wiser, leaner and more physically fit.

Hmmm, sounds just like life decisions. Do what's easy. Don't deal with that negative attitude I see in my child. Leave that project that needs attention for another day. Organizing that closet can wait until next week, next month, next year.

I am preaching to myself. I will admit it, I pro... pro... procrastinate. Did I really just admit that? I did, it's now out there. Bottom line, I need to WRITE things out for each day. Goals, dreams, things that need to get done.

We moved into our present home a little over a year ago. Boxes are unpacked, things are put away, and pictures are on the walls. But... There was one major thing I procrastinated, the master bedroom walk-in closet. I knew I wanted it perfectly organized and it was going to take a lot of TIME and WORK. So what did I do? I closed the door for a year. I HATE clutter. I literally feel like I can't function, or enjoy anything fully until the clutter is gone. So I just shut the door.

Then company was coming. They would stay in that room, I knew I had to clean it. It took me over an hour but, I sweat, labored, and organized. With results I could hardly believe, I actually enjoy being in there, and I can find the things I need! Why did I wait a year to enjoy my walk-in closet? Now I open the door and I feel such relief and pleasure.

I have learned a lesson from a closet. Take that narrower road that may not show on the surface as the most appealing. In the words of Robert Frost, "take the road less traveled by" and ENJOY the fruits of your labor!

...wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only few find it.
Matthew 7:13

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Bouquets of newly sharpened pencils

Tis the season to send someone you love a bouquet of newly sharpened pencils.

Step outside, breath in deeply. Do you feel it? Fall is not far away.

Monday the last of my school-bound returns, leaving me a four year old to fill these rooms with the laughter and play of one voice.

Making a schedule and sticking to it is how I plan on meeting my writing objectives this year. I really don't get much done without a schedule. It's going to be a great year!

Monday, July 27, 2009

Fairy Tale

I was walking by a shop window the other day when my eyes caught a glimpse of a sign in the window with these words...

"Once in a while, right in the middle of ordinary life, love gives you a fairy tale."

I was drawn to the sign, and just stood and read it again and again. Then, I reached into my purse, pulled out pen and paper and copied it down. Why?

I decided to look up the definition of fairy tale. ...being magical, idealized, or extremely happy. I suppose we all long for the bliss filled life, where dreams do come true and we live happily ever after.

I want to look for the fairy tales in my life, people or places that make me smile. A song, a verse of scripture, a moment in time that I soak in and wish would go on forever. That's part of why we're here, to live life to the fullest and help others do the same.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Book Review - Ballet Shoes

I found this Noel Streatfeild novel hard to put down. Maybe it's because I love British writers, or perhaps it's the time period, it was published in 1936.

Great Uncle Matthew, GUM they call him, lived in London. Sylvia, his niece ran his home. GUM traveled all over the world a great deal. Upon his travels and on three different occasions he brought home three orphaned baby girls. Pauline, Petrova, and Posy.

GUM, once again took off to travel. This time he informed Sylvia he would be gone longer then usual and left her money enough for five years. Five years came and went and no letter or sign of GUM reached them. They were on the brink of poverty. Sylvia decided to take in boarders.

One of these boarders worked for Madame Fidolia's School of Dance. She said the school would take the girls no charge. Payment would come when the girls reached twelve (the legal age to perform on stage). The school would get a percentage of their earnings.

The girls enrolled. Pauline, excelled in acting and played many roles on stage. Petrova, did well in dance but disliked it very much, pretending to love it because she knew her family needed the money. Posy, excelled in ballet and for the first time in the history of the school, was taken by Madame herself to be trained exclusively.

This was an enjoyable story of lessons learned and the benefits of hard work to achieve greatness. And in the end, dreams really do come true...

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Strawberries on the Wall

As mothers we all face this don't we? I'm not the only one, right? But this is when we are tested, what are we made of? Whatever is on the inside of us, is going to come boiling to the surface.

I am continually training my children to control their emotions and to master them. Now, with three sets of eyes fixed on me it was my turn to "practice what I preach".

But I didn't want to, I wanted to scream at the top of my lungs, "WHY! WHAT WERE YOU THINKING!"

I may of said that. But before I did, I paused. In my own strength and ability I am totally in submission to my flesh and my emotions. But at that moment I prayed silently. Even though on the inside the atomic fury stirred. I knew I needed to calm down before I spoke, or they would have learned a new lesson on how to handle emotions.

So after a minute or two I calmed, then I spoke, then the consequence.

Being a mom is a tough thankless job, but it's worth it! My youngest is now four, where did the time go? I want to focus on knowing them and loving them before they walk out my door to their own lives.

So when out of the blue one of my children say, "I love you mom" or "I like spending time with you mom," my mind takes a picture of that moment. Those are the moments I focus on, those are the moments I carry with me. The strawberries on the wall will have to deal with that.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Happy Independence Day!

I love this country. I sometimes feel like I am different from others. I hear The Star Spangled Banner sung, or God Bless the U.S.A. and tears usually come to my eyes.

Over two hundred years ago, fifty-six men gathered together with one object, for this great nation. These men centered around a piece of paper, a paper that once signed could mean not only their deaths, but the deaths of their families. They didn't have to do it, it was of their own free will. They mutually pledged, their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor. That piece of paper was, The Declaration of Independence.

Throughout history there have been many such men. Men and women willing to die to keep this country free. Many great mothers have willingly sacrificed their son, young wives their husbands. But why?

Those of us who live here, take for granted what people in other countries long for. We are free. Free to worship, speak, and believe as we choose.

But freedom, isn't free. There is a high price to be paid for it. And screaming for "peace" and hoping evil people that want to dictate how our lives should be lived will jump on the "peace" bandwagon are gravely mistaken. Evil must be defeated, at any cost.

Not long ago I said to my oldest son, "What should you say to a soldier when you see one?"

"Thank you," he said.

And I send out my thanks today, and am filled with pride for this country I love. Which despite its many problems is still filled with great men and women who are willing to fight for freedom.

And may God Bless America!